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Houston continues to find delight in teaching

Joan Houston is a planner. That is not such a big surprise, given that she is an assistant professor in accounting, a field where planning is beneficial. However, what makes Houston's career choice unusual is how she arrived there.

"I have always wanted to teach," Houston said. "As a kid, when we played in the neighborhood, even though I was not the oldest, I was always the teacher. That desire has never wavered."

After high school, Houston left Barnesville, Minn., to attend Minnesota State University, Moorhead, where she graduated with a bachelor's in accounting. Next, she attended the University of North Dakota to obtain her Masters of Accountancy. Continuing with the plan, Houston worked as an auditor in a public accounting firm for a year and a half before pursuing her dream.

"I figured you cannot teach well if you do not do the work," Houston explained. "I did that specifically so I would have practical experience to use in the classroom."

In spite of her methodical approach to life, accounting was not her first pick.

Houston started college as an art major, but early on questioned whether she really wanted to teach high school students how to draw and paint. Her father, a CPA, suggested she try accounting, to which she responded, "I don't think so." However, after a change of heart, she registered for a class.

"I almost flunked the class, because I just did not get it," she remembered. "I was a straight A student, so it was not that I wasn't trying; it was because they (the professors) were not focusing on the basics and building from there. They were making it too difficult. Once I figured that out, I realized what a challenge it would be to help students understand accounting and to develop professionally."

After teaching at MSU-Moorhead for a year, Houston joined Minot State faculty in 1984 and has never looked back. Almost 30 years later, she remains enthusiastic about her mission and her place.

"I love teaching, and when you care so much about something, you will do whatever you can to help students do well," she said. "The University environment, the people, the students - everybody here — makes it a delight to come to work every day. MSU has the best of two worlds—the personal focus of a small school and the opportunities of a large one."